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“Quezon’s Game” Australia premiere draws emotions and introspect on humanity

March 02, 2020 AT 02:47 PM

“Quezon’s Game” Australia premiere draws emotions and introspect on humanity

L-R: Consul Melanie Rita Diano, Consul Emmanuel Donato Guzman; Philippine Consul General Ezzedin Tago; Vic Alhadeff, CEO, NSW Jewish Board of Deputies; Aviva Wolff, Operations Manager of the Sydney Jewish Museum; Jay Francis Santos, ABS-CBN Australia Country Manager, and May Ilagan, ABS-CBN Australia Regional Marketing Manager

It was a full-house affair last February 26 as the internationally awarded “Quezon’s Game” premiered in Australia. The exclusive screening organized by TFC, in partnership with the Philippine Consulate General in Sydney, the New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies, Sydney Jewish Museum and SBS Filipino, were attended by Filipino and Jewish community leaders and members of the press, as well as foreign dignitaries and historians.
A film that could make any Filipino proud. A piece of history every Jewish should know… Quezon’s Game, an ABS-CBN Films production in association with iWant and Kinetek, is on its limited run in over 20 cinemas across Australia. The film tells a true story of heroism during World War II when the Filipino President Manuel L. Quezon rescued persecuted Jews by welcoming them to the Philippines for refuge at a time when most countries were turning their backs. Directed by Matthew Rosen who is a British man with Jewish descent, the critically acclaimed film garnered 25 international and received praises from different film critics, including the New York Times which described lead actor Raymond Bagatsing’s acting as “a sincere, rousing performance” and the storyline “a fascinating historical juncture.”
Upon arrival at the Sydney Jewish Museum, guests expressed their intrigue of the once untold story of an Asian country offering a haven to refugees coming from the other side of the world. Among them is Deputy Consul General of Switzerland to Australia Didier Boschung as he similarly fosters Swiss-Jewish ties that go back a war-torn Europe through film exhibitions. ON the other hand, Professor Konrad Kwiet, Resident Historian at the Sydney Jewish Museum, expected the “Quezon’s Game” to shed light on the events that took place in Southeast Asia in so far as their people’s history.
The audience was welcomed by Norman Seligman, Chief Executive Officer of the Sydney Jewish Museum who commended Quezon as a “non-Jewish who risked a lot to save a number of lives”.
Vic Alhadeff, CEO, NSW Jewish Board of Deputies

This is echoed by the Chief Executive Officer of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies Vic Aldaheff who applauded the foresight the late president displayed having seen the warning signs that would later befall the Jewish people. “He did not wait for millions to be murdered before taking action,” said Aldaheff. Without giving away too much of the film, he tells the story behind the Manilaners – the hundreds of Jews that found refuge in Quezon’s private Marikina estate. He proudly shares that almost 1,300 Manilaners and their families now peacefully live around the globe, mostly in the United States and Israel. True to this testimony, TFC recently found the 90-year-old Manilaner Erika Stahr who is now residing in Melbourne.
Representing the Filipino community, Consulate General Ezzedin Tago spoke of the pride “Quezon’s Game” has brought as it took the country to the world stage, reaping accolades and earning recognition for its contribution to humanity. He says, “The story shines light to the Philippines’ enduring readiness and commitment to be a friend in the international community, a safe shelter to people in dire need, and a protector of humanity’s ideals.” 
Jay Francis Santos, Country Manager, ABS-CBN Australia

TFC Country Manager for Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific Jay Santos emphasized how Quezon’s Game should be one movie every Filipino should be proud of: “President Manuel Luis Quezon showed the world that amidst the afflictions of war and the influence of allies, a leader can still choose an unpopular path of kindness that extends to those whose race, color and beliefs are not his own.”
As the untold story of President Manuel L. Quezon unfolded before a nearly hundred viewers in the premiere, emotions run high as they share the sentiment of how Quezon still managed to choose humanity despite facing different political and personal odds.
Miriam Guttman-Jones, a member of the Jewish community, describes her experience so moving. She shares: “I think the film was a commentary of what really good and strong leadership is. I’d like to see more of it in our present day. And it is not just about the Jews… It’s about humanity and that’s what it boils down to.”
L-R: Eva and Lewis Levi, and Ed Alcordo, President of Australia Philippines Business Council, members of the Jewish-Australian and Filipino-Australian communities

On the other hand, Lolita Lewis of the University of the Philippines Alumni Association of Australia – NSW Chapter says: “I think our humanity is judged by how much we look after the dispossessed. And we have done that. I didn’t realize how hard President Quezon fought to give refuge to the Jewish people.”  This realization also dawned to Chairman and CEO of TMG Developments Robert Magid and his wife Ruth who is familiar with the Philippines’ history. However, this is the first time the heard about Quezon’s role in saving some Jewish during the World War II, which they believe makes the Philippines “one place in the world that did the right thing when millions were being slaughtered.”
L-R: ABS-CBN Australia Team: Rommel Ainza, Linlin Linsao, Jay Francis Santos, Myla Aye, Jerwin Jarical, May Ilagan

The film saw the many oppositions Quezon faced in his resolve to welcome the Jews in Philippine shores. Victoria Nadel, recipient of the Medal of the Order of Australia, felt the depiction of such ordeal “incredibly moving”. She continues: “I feel quite emotional. It’s inspiring that there are people like the president who made such very, very brave decisions to help others.”
In his speech, Jay Santos believes that "Quezon's Game" may be a good start for the younger generation as they revisit unfamiliar parts of their history, with the hope of igniting pride in their Filipino roots.
David Joshua Delos Reyes, President of the Filipino International Student Council, affirms his commitment to recommend the movie to his fellow youth. He believes that it is a timely reminder of the Filipinos’ world-class hospitality that dates back to the time of their forefathers and what it took for them to demonstrate such humanity. “It’s a very timely issue especially with what’s happening around the world,” says Delos Reyes. Quezon’s Game proves to be a timely and relevant piece especially to migrant Filipinos such as Luke Sy who saw the film as a mirror for those who also consider themselves as global citizens. His realizations brought him to ask, “How do you balance nationalism and caring for just anyone because we are all human beings?” 
Such discourse created by films like “Quezon’s Game” is the reason why stories of leadership, unity and of humanity must be told. Aldaheff believes that the film “makes the critical point that even during history’s darkest and most challenging times, there were those who were motivated by courage and principle and humanity.” And it is because of these enduring values that 8,000 descendants now thrive from the lives saved by Philippine President Manuel L. Quezon.
Catch “Quezon's Game" on its limited run in Australia, New Zealand, Guam, Saipan, and Papua New Guinea. Spread the word and share the theatre listings on, or follow TFC Australia and TFC New Zealand on Facebook.
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